C. infundibuliformis.
C. infundibuliformis. / Wikipedia

A ‘cracker’ of a plant

  • In its native countries, Crossandra flowers are strung together with fragrant jasmine to make beautiful garlands

Cassandra infundibuliformis, commonly called the Firecracker flower, is a stunning evergreen shrub which unfortunately is not the easiest to grow. Besides not liking the cold, it won’t withstand drought either and the soil must be kept moist and never allowed to dry out. It also will not survive long in direct sunlight. However, the glossy, wavy-edged leaves and beautiful, brightly-coloured flowers make it well worth the effort.

The flowers are not scented but grow in loose spikes in glowing shades of orange, salmon, coral, yellow and even turquoise-green (C. infundibuliformis ‘Green ice’). In its native country, the flowers of the Crossandra are strung together with jasmine blooms to make garlands and extracts of the flowers are also used medicinally to treat fevers, healing wounds and headaches. Extracts of the leaves are said to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.

The flowers will appear all year round in ideal climates and last for several days before fading. Once dry, the seed pods explode open, scattering their seeds several feet. This usually happens when the humidity levels peak or there is rain, an effective method of making sure the seeds germinate quickly when they land on the moist soil.

Crossandra can also be propagated by taking cuttings from the new growth in spring.

Tropical Crossandra is native to Africa, south India and Sri Lanka and because of its susceptibility to the cold, it is often grown as a houseplant. Regardless of where you live in southern Spain, it is probably advisable to grow it in a container so that it can be moved indoors to a location with plenty of natural light during the winter.

Crossandra will enjoy being misted once a week during the hottest months. It will also benefit from being re-potted every spring in fresh compost and can be lightly pruned at the same time to keep it compact.